Natchez Burning (Penn Cage Series #4)

Natchez Burning (Penn Cage Series #4)

4.3 177
by Greg Iles

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An American writer at the height of his creative powers, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years—Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring southern

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An American writer at the height of his creative powers, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years—Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Raised in the historic southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of honor and duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community has been accused of murdering Viola Turner, the African-American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses to even speak in his own defense.

Penn's quest for the truth sends him deep into his father's past, where a sexually charged secret lies waiting to tear their family apart. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only a single thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez's oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles' crosshairs. With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?

Drenched in southern atmosphere, Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense, disturbing, and filled with electrifying plot twists, this novel commences the most explosive and ambitious story Greg Iles has ever written.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/10/2014
Much more than a thriller, Iles’s deftly plotted fourth Penn Cage novel (after 2008’s The Devil’s Punchbowl) doesn’t flag for a moment, despite its length. In 2005, the ghosts of the past come back to haunt Cage—now the mayor of Natchez, Miss.—with a vengeance. His father, Dr. Tom Cage, who has been an institution in the city for decades, faces the prospect of being arrested for murder. An African-American nurse, Viola Turner, who worked closely with Tom in the 1960s and was in the end stages of cancer, has died, and her son, Lincoln, believes that she was eased into death by a lethal injection. Tom refuses to speak about what happened (he admits only that he was treating Viola), which prevents Cage from using his leverage as mayor to head off charges. The mystery is inextricably interwoven with the violence Natchez suffered in the 1960s, including the stabbing of Viola’s brother by Ku Klux Klansmen in a fight. The case may also be connected to the traumatic political assassinations of the decade. This superlative novel’s main strength comes from the lead’s struggle to balance family and honor. Agents: Dan Conaway and Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (May)
Library Journal (starred review)
“An absorbing and electrifying tale that thriller fans will be sure to devour.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Much more than a thriller, Iles’s deftly plotted fourth Penn Cage novel doesn’t flag for a moment . . . This superlative novel’s main strength comes from the lead’s struggle to balance family and honor.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A searing tale of racial hatreds and redemption in the modern South, courtesy of Southern storyteller extraordinaire Iles. . . . A memorable, harrowing tale.”
Scott Turow
Natchez Burning is just flat-out terrific . . . its themes about race, violence, tradition, and the eternal smoldering anger of the South [bring] to mind Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner . . . Greg Iles is back and truly better than ever.”
Stephen King
Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful. I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down . . . This is an amazing work of popular fiction.”
Booklist (starred review)
“It’s been half a decade since Iles’ last Penn Cage novel, but, oh boy, was it worth the wait! . . . This beautifully written novel represents some of the author’s finest work, with sharper characterizations and a story of especially deep emotional resonance, and we eagerly await volume two.”
Jodi Picoult
“I don’t know how Iles did it, but every single page of Natchez Burning is a cliffhanger that will keep you devouring just one more chapter before you put it down . . . this ambitious, unique novel is the perfect marriage of a history lesson and a thriller.”
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-02-01
A searing tale of racial hatreds and redemption in the modern South, courtesy of Southern storyteller extraordinaire Iles (The Devil's Punchbowl, 2009, etc.). Natchez didn't burn in the Civil War, having surrendered to the Yankees while its neighbors endured scarifying sieges. It burns in Iles' pages, though, since so many of the issues sounded a century and a half ago have yet to be resolved. Some of Natchez's more retrograde residents find it difficult to wrap their heads around the idea that men and women of different races might want to spend time together, occasioning, in the opening episode, a "Guadalcanal barbecue," as one virulent separate-but-unequal proponent puts it. The Double Eagles, an even more violent offshoot of the KKK, has been spreading its murderous idea of justice through the neighborhood for a long time, a fact driven home for attorney/politico Penn Cage when the allegation rises that his own father is somehow implicated in the dark events of 1964—and, as Iles' slowly unfolding story makes clear, not just of that long-ago time, but in the whispered, hidden things that followed. As Penn investigates, drawing heat, he runs into plenty of tough customers, some with badges, some with swastikas, as well as the uncomfortable fact that his heroic father may indeed have feet of clay. Iles, a longtime resident of Natchez, knows his corner of Mississippi as well as Faulkner and Welty knew theirs, and he sounds true notes that may not be especially meaningful for outsiders—for one thing, that there's a profound difference between a Creole and a Cajun, and for another, that anyone whose first three names are Nathan Bedford Forrest may not be entirely trustworthy when looking into hate crimes. His story is long in the telling (and with at least two more volumes coming along to complete it), but a patient reader will find that the pages scoot right along without missing a beat. Iles is a master of regional literature, though he's dealing with universals here, one being our endless thirst to right wrongs. A memorable, harrowing tale.

Sometimes homicides hit too close to home. For former prosecutor Penn Cage, that harrowing experience occurs when his physician father is accused of the murder of a beloved African-American nurse. Defending his stubborn dad won't be easy: Invoking doctor-patient confidentiality, Dr. Tom Cage is essentially refusing to cooperate. Just as disturbing is the revelation that a local spawn of the Klu Klux Klan seems to have latched onto the family because of a sex-related secret in its past. The launch volume of an absorbing new Southern fiction trilogy; now in mass-market paperback and NOOK Book.

Washington Post
Natchez Burning obliterates the artificial distinction between genre and literary fiction with passion, grace and considerable style. This is Greg Iles at his formidable best. It’s good to have him back.”
Wall Street Journal
“A whopping tale, filled with enough cliff-hanging crises for an old summer-long movie-serial. Yet there are still enough unresolved matters at the end of Natchez Burning for two already-promised sequels.”
The Times (London)
“The thriller of the year, of the decade even, is Natchez Burning... The first of a projected trilogy, Natchez Burning is Penn Cage’s fourth outing. But you don’t need to read its predecessors to be wholly consumed by this wonderful book. Buy, read, and marvel.”
Clarion-Ledger (Jackson
Natchez Burning excels as a contemporary thriller . . . utterly—and chillingly—believable. Epic.”
Library Journal
★ 02/15/2014
The murder of retired nurse Viola Turner in the small Mississippi town of Natchez sets off a firestorm of vicious attacks to prevent the unearthing of long-buried secrets. Penn Cage, a former prosecutor and now the town's mayor, becomes personally involved when his father, Dr. Tom Cage, is arrested for Viola's death. Reporter Henry Sexton has accumulated years of information about the Double Eagles, a small splinter cell of the Ku Klux Klan. A young Dr. Cage and his nurse Viola had the misfortune of crossing paths with them during the 1960s. The septuagenarian members have never stopped their illegal operations, and now their children continue their violent legacy. With fiancée Caitlin, Penn must use Henry's information to uncover the truth and save his father. VERDICT In this first of a trilogy, best-selling author Iles brings back his Southern lawyer (The Devil's Punch Bowl) in an absorbing and electrifying tale that thriller fans will be sure to devour. [See Prepub Alert, 11/10/13.]—Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Penn Cage Series, #4
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.20(d)


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Natchez Burning 4.3 out of 5 based on 4 ratings. 177 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OUTSTANDING!!!!! This is one of the best "who-dunits" I have read in a very long time. I read a lot of Greg Iles, but this is by far the best he has done. I only hope we don't have to wait very long for the sequel. This is great writing. Keeps you going the entire book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am glad I read this on a Nook and didn't know how long it is, because at 850 pages, it is definitely a commitment! I usually don't read books with a lot of violence, but I was intrigued by the setting of the South during the civil rights period as well as in the present. That said, violence aside I simply could not put this book down. It switches viewpoint characters and time periods, but Penn Cage is definitely the protagonist. It left me wanting to read more about him, and though there are several "Penn Cage" novels, I couldn't figure out where NATCHEZ fit into a "trilogy." As there were several frustratingly loose strands at the end of the book, I wrote the author and learned that NATCHEZ is the FIRST in a trilogy that includes THE BONE TREE (due out next April) and UNWRITTEN LAWS (the year after that). The other Penn Cage novels, in order of release, are: The Quiet Game Turning Angel The Devil's Punchbowl The Death Factory (a novella in ebook format only) I was sad to reach the end of the book, sad that a great ride was over, if not complete.
Pslazygirl More than 1 year ago
I have read Greg Iles  books before with varying degrees of approval but with this book I was concerned with the length of the book and whether or not it would hold my interest, about half way through I tired of the subject matter and gave up.  I felt he could have written a fine book in about half the size.   One knows where the storyline is going and it just didn't hold my interest.  Good luck to the ones who do read it hopefully you will not have that problem.
SoCal_Reader More than 1 year ago
While this story was a page-turner, it was bloated by too many characters, too much gratuitous brutality and too many unbelievable scenarios.  We get the point about good guys and bad guys; don't run it into the ground.  What started as an intriguing story of 1960's era civil rights murders turns preposterous as it unfolds.  This would have been a much better story if it were about three hundred pages shorter and far less repetitive in it's themes.  I understand that the author is setting up a trilogy, but if some of the fat had been cut from this thing, I might be hungrier for the next installment when it's released. Right now, I'm not sure I'd want to commit to another long novel in the series if that outcome will be dissatisfying. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Greg Iles writing style and have purchased and read everything he has written. This was a truly great book until the last page - I invested several sleepless nights in reading this 830+ page novel, hating the need to get some sleep. Here I am at 3:30 AM reading the last page without realizing it is the last page, thinking one last chapter is going to tie everything up and the next page is - ta da! - Acknowledgements! What a letdown. Then I read this is a trilogy! I absolutely hate reading a story made into a series before all the books are finished because inevitably I have to reread the first book again because it takes so long for the books to be written. Four stars is only a reflection of my disappointment that I must wait at least a year to find resolution for a three day story that lasted 830+ pages - historical sagas taking place over decades make for great series or trilogies, like LeCarre's recent trilogy. This story would have been been better presented as a stand alone book. The story was powerful and well written enough that I would very happily have read another several hundred pages to find resolution.
rogueML More than 1 year ago
I like Ile's books about Natchez; but this one was too long and left too many questions unanswered at the end. For exaample, at one point Caitlin has only 4 hours before a meeting with Penn and her publication deadline; but about 100 pages of activiy occur that could not possibly have occurred in real time during that four hours. After 800+ pages, I expected closure for all the characters and subplots, at least for this story rather than wait for a sequal. It does not need a sequal, the history and storylines that might emanate from Natchez willl create opportunities for the next story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After having read many positive reviews of this book, I looked forward to reading it with eagerness. I read the tome, all 838 pages, so I obviously found it compelling...but still disappointing in the final analysis. Against the backdrop of the ugliness of the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the 60s, a much more poignant story could have been told if two of the principal characters, Penn and Caitlin, were more than caricatured, one dimensional 'super heros', and the plot involving them wasn't so totally over fabricated. The turmoils they experience are a bit far-fetched, and out of dime detective novels. The 'sins of the father' may have to be paid for by the son, but Tom Cage is a far more three-dimensional and believable character than Penn. Don't think I'll be reading the second rendering of this purported three book sequence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't think it would ever end. Totally implausible, too much killing, too much everything. And now that I  have finished it, I don't think I even like Penn, Caitlin or Tom anymore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
  cant wait for the next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
850 pages and he wouldn't get to a denoument for the main story line! Pretty good writer but has no respect for the reader. Obviously looking to sell more books in a soap opera series. I was seriously put off and won't read another.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finally finished it!!! Way too long...could have been more captive with half the pages. He just went off in too many directions. But I doo like his other books very much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was very good, however it left me with unanswered questions,  There has to be a sequel
ShelGirl More than 1 year ago
When I first purchased this new novel by Greg Isles, I was surprised to see that it was over 800 pages. Isles is so adept at follow-through that it was a seamless transition from the last Penn Cage novel (The Devil's Punchbowl) to Natchez Burning. About that 800 page literally flies by. Can't put this one down and am really glad to know Natchez Burning is the first in a trilogy. I've read all of Mr. Isles' books and this is one great read!! Mr Isles, please don't make us wait so long for the next one...Penn Cage is a real winner!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is as exciting as you can get,I couldn't put it down
snoops927 More than 1 year ago
I came here to leave a complaint because the ending left so many things unsettled in the story. But now i realize it is a trilogy and all will be made clear in future books. I loved this book. It kept me hooked till the end. I will be impatirntly waiting for the next book in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seriously amazing. Greg Iles is to writing - as - Michael Jordan is to basketball. This book (and all of his books) remind me of any of the Pink Floyd albums. A little disturbing at first but, you are drawn in. Soon you're involved to the point of "jammin" and you think, "My God! Every ounce of this is designed by a creative 'mega-force'."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His best book yet!  Could not put it down! Fast paced writing that keeps you in suspense! 
Anonymous 8 months ago
Not sure what caught my attention to read sample - perhaps S. King recommendation. Enjoyed sample well enough to purchase and "couldn't put it down". Did not know till purchased I was reading a series and so read #4 of current 5. A bad time in our USA history of racial history (1960's) and worrisome that we don't appear to have made big strides in bettering differences.Some, but not enough. I found the author repeating himself more times than I would like. I also am bothered that the beginning of the story brings up A. Norris hiding his secret journals. So how come Catlin in the last quarter of the story knows something about them? I don't recall Albert telling anyone about them, or Hennry ever finding them. Did I miss something in this 4th series or was there something in the 1st 3 that would explain? Other than those 2 things, I did enjoy and I did recommend to my friend as we both devoured and cried over "Five Smooth Stones" back in the 1970's.
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Anonymous 12 months ago
Not very realistic characters or plot. Old hat southern strerotypes. Like most of his books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First book of a trilogy. Loved this one so much i could not wait to start the next book ---the Bone Tree. Highly recommend!
areume More than 1 year ago
The Penn Cage books are some of my favorites, and I always look forward to a new book. But beware: I found out AFTER I read the book that this is the first I a trilogy thus only 4 stars instead of 5. I hate waiting on the rest of the story - you never know if it will take years to finish!